Wednesday, October 10, 2007

[wvns] Iran & Israel: Behind the Scenes

Iran and Israel - understanding the dynamics
October 06, 2007

The real threat that Iran poses to Israel is that Iran and the US may
start to get along, thus undermining Israel's strategic value to the
US and creating an obstacle to Israel's regional ambitions. Promoting
emnity between the US and Iran also gives the pro-Israeli lobby a
reason to exist, even though it is contrary to broader US interests.

By now you're quite familar with the standard trope in which Iran, the
crazed fundamentalist regime, is supposedly seeking nuclear weapons in
order to pose an 'existential' threat to Israel.

This is a convenient way to frame the issue, because among other
things is perpetuates the mythology of Israel as the underdog victim,
facing down a sea of irrationally hostile neighbors. That's why the
Israeli propagandists make a particular effort at locating and
magnifying any statements from Iranian officials that they can
characterize as being threatening to Israel - for example the alleged
statement by Ahmadinejad (the New Hitler, we are told) about "wiping
out" Israel - now thoroughly debunked but still often repeated. The
mythology of Israel as the always-victim was never true of course, as
even Israeli historians now acknowledge - nor is it an accurate
representation of the Israel-Iran dynamics either.

The real threat to Israel: US-Iran engagement

What is the real nature of the threat that Iran poses to Israel? Is it
that Iran is going to drop a nuke on Israel? No. According to Trita
Parsi, author of Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel,
Iran, and the United States, Israel has often gotten along and
cooperated with Iran when it suited their interests. In fact, when
AIPAC was pushing for US sanctions laws on Iran that prohibited
American companies from doing business with Iran, Israel was busy
doing business with Iran through Turkey. The danger that Iran poses to
Israel is not that Iran may one day decide to nuke Israel - the
Iranians are not about to get into a sucidal nuclear exchange with
anyone - no matter how hard the Israelis try to portray Iranians as
crazed fundamentalists. Rather, the real danger posed by Iran to
Israel is that Iran and the US may start to get along, leaving Israel
out in the cold, threatening Israel's strategic value to the US, and
posing an obstacle to Israel's domination of the Middle East. A
secure, economically-stable Iran - which has the benefit of nuclear
energy to power its economy in the future and is perceived as being
technologically advanced - plus Iran's strategic position and
relatively well-educated population of 75 million potential consumers
of US goods, added to many other factors - all would pose too much of
a temptation to the US to start to warm up to Iran - especially now
that the Cold War is over and Israel's strategic utility to the US is
severely diminished (assuming Israel was ever a strategic asset during
the Cold War in the first place.)

As Trita has written,

"[I]t wasn’t Iran that turned the Israeli-Iranian cold war warm â€"
it was Israel . . . The Israeli reversal on Iran was partially
motivated by the fear that its strategic importance would diminish
significantly in the post-cold war middle east if the then president
(1989-97) Hashemi Rafsanjani’s outreach to the Bush Sr
administration was successful."
And so,

Israeli politicians began painting the regime in Tehran as fanatical
and irrational. Clearly, they maintained, finding an accommodation
with such “mad mullahs” was a non-starter. Instead, they called on
the US to classify Iran, along with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, as a
rogue state that needed to be “contained.”
The Iran-Bashing Industry

Israel's characterization of Iran as an irrational threat that has to
be contained rather than engaged has had the added benefit of
providing a raison d'etre for the hardline pro-Israeli lobby in the US.

By 1993, with the end of the Cold War and the start of the
Israeli-Palestinian peace process under Rabin, AIPAC had lost its
purpose and was in a tailspin due to a series of scandals. It had
essentially broken off from the Labor government in Israel over the
peace process, and had alienated Bush I administration too. AIPAC's
swing to the hardline Right had also alienated a good chunk of the
Jewish community in the US and had raised quite a bit of ire &
controversey all around: by its attempts to impose its hawkish views
on the Washington Jewish Week; disclosure by the Village Voice in Aug
92 that a unit of AIPAC had investigated and harassed dovish Jewish
peace groups; leaked memos of how AIPAC intended to discredit figures
such as Jerome Segal of the Jewish Peace Lobby, Jim Zogby and Jesse
Jackson; Rabin explicitly telling AIPAC to back off; Shamir's conflict
with Bush I over loan guarantees, etc - all made worse by a series of
other scandals and in-fighting which led to the resignations of top
AIPAC officials like Thomas Dine, David Steiner, and Harvey
Friedman... In fact in June 1993, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister
Yossi Beilin explicitly stated that AIPAC was a right-wing lobby that
represented neither his government nor the views of the American
Jewish public.

But then came the issue of Iran's award of a lucrative oil contract to
Conoco as an opening gesture to the US. It was a Godsend to AIPAC,
which rallied hard behind sanctions legislation along with Senator
Alfonse D'Amato. With the election of Netanyahu and Indyk's "Dual
Containment" policy in ascendance, AIPAC got back in business as never
before, and they went to town over Iran, pushing harder and harder on
primary then secondary sanctions legislation. Now they've gone
completely overboard and are overtly embracing the likes of Rev Hagee
who explicitly calls for an apocalyptic war on Iran.

In short, with the end of the Cold War and the renewal of the
Palestinian-Israeli peace process, AIPAC needed a reason to exist & a
"threat" to rally around - and they found Iran. As Walt & Mearsheimer
have written:

In addition to this tendency for those with more extreme views to back
and dominate key organizations in the lobby, there is another reason
that many pro-Israeli groups have moved rightward: to keep
contributions flowing in. As Waxman notes, "Many American Jewish
organizations now need Israel to legitimate their own existence.
Although these organizations may have been established for the purpose
of enhancing and strengthening Israel, today Israel is vital for their
continued viability." Portraying Israel as beleaguered and vulnerable,
and issuing dire warnings about continued or growing anti-Semitism
helps maintain a high level of concern among political supporters and
thus helps ensure these organizations' continued existence.
And what is the natural conclusion of this sort of policy of "no
engagement with Iran" ?

Although it makes good strategic sense for the United States and Iran
to pursue a grand bargain, and although there is plenty of suport for
that policy inside and outside of America, it is unlikely to happen
anytime soon. Israel and the lobby will almost certainly try to thwart
any efforts to seriously engage Iran before they get started, as they
have consistently done since 1993...If the United States does launch
an attack, it wll be doing so in part on Israel's behalf, and the
lobby will bear significant responsibility for having pushed this
dangerous policy. And it would not be in America's national interest.
So now you know.



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